One of San Francisco's seven deaths to date from the coronavirus was a crew member on board the Grand Princess who was a citizen of the Philippines. And now a coalition of union representatives, repatriated crew members, and advocates for the Filipino community are calling for further testing and healthcare transparency for the remaining crew members on the ship whose quarantine ends Saturday.
Terry Valen of the Filipino Community Center SF and the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) issued a press release early Friday announcing the crew member's death, as well as a press conference happening on Zoom at 1 p.m.
The crew member is the third person to die from the Grand Princess cruise that left San Francisco on February 21 — federal officials said last week that two male passengers also died after becoming infected with COVID-19 onboard the ship. As KTVU reports, the deceased crew member was male, and the date of his death is not yet clear.
A total of 103 passengers from the ship ultimately tested positive for the coronavirus after disembarking from the ship over two weeks ago — and this was in addition to 21 people (two passengers and 19 crew members) who tested positive on March 6 who were among 45 initially tested while the ship was still being held off the San Francisco coast. As the Mercury News reported, at least one female passenger who had been in quarantine at Travis Air Force Base tested positive for the virus after her 14-day quarantine had ended — and there are concerns that more infected passengers might have unwittingly brought the virus back to their homes.
A Placer County man who had been on the same ship on a cruise to Mexico that returned on February 21 became the first California resident to die of COVID-19 on March 3. At least one other passenger on that same cruise, who was from Sonoma County, also tested positive for the virus.
As reported on March 19, some 568 Grand Princess passengers refused to be tested while in quarantine, for fear that delays or positive results could keep them sequestered longer. And federal officials allegedly encouraged them to decline tests if they were not showing symptoms.
In the weeks since, the director of the CDC has come out saying that around 25 percent of those infected with the novel coronavirus are asymptomatic — and there has been strong evidence to suggest that the virus is airborne and can easily be transmitted through exhalation in enclosed spaces.
Princess Cruises issued a statement, per KTVU, on the crew member's death, saying, "All of us at Princess Cruises are deeply saddened to report that one of our team members who was working on Grand Princess passed away, from complications related to COVID-19. Our hearts go out to his family, friends, team members and all who are impacted by this loss. All of us at Princess Cruises offer our sincere condolences."
Meanwhile, multiple cruise ships that were still at sea — remarkably — as of this week have been trying to dock in Florida, including two Holland America ships carrying four dead passengers and 14 critically ill ones. Those ships landed Friday, as the Associated Press reports, and Florida hospitals were bracing for an onslaught of new COVID-19 cases. Another Carnival Cruise Lines ship, the Coral Princess, has 12 confirmed cases on board including this Bay Area couple, and it will be docking at Port Everglades on Saturday.
There were over 500 Filipino crew members working on the Grand Princess before it arrived back in San Francisco in early March, as Rappler reported, and while some have been repatriated to the Philippines, hundreds remain on the ship, which has sat in the middle of San Francisco Bay for two weeks. On Saturday, April 4, at 3 p.m., the official quarantine for those crew members ends, and Friday's press conference is calling for the government to "protect the rights, health and livelihood" of those crew members. It is not clear if anyone who remains on board has fallen ill, or been further tested.
Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises